Executive Director's Report Issue 43

Summer 2002 CSANews Issue 43  |  Posted date : Apr 06, 2007.Back to list

Life around CSA's head office has been extremely busy this past spring and summer. With the CSA presentations for submission before the Romanow Commission, the ongoing work on the National Evaluation and our work with the INS -- we have certainly had our work cut out for us. CSA staff would not have it any other way!

Recently, President Ellen White asked me what were the most important things I had learned from my experience with the CSA this past year. Two things readily stand out ­ bringing together the right team to not only meet the busy, daily requirements, but also a team that can shift gears to meet the bigger challenges. Of equal merit is the positive value of networking and bridge-building, extending working relationships outside or apart from the day-to-day CSA focus. That networking goes far beyond those relationships developed with a new and exciting board of directors. Those relationships take on a larger scale, entering into the realm of not only our Canadian federal and provincial government officials and civil servants, but also extending to their very important American government counterparts, their political offices and U.S. business stakeholders. Another important element in this outreach, networking strategy is the development of strong ties with both the Canadian and American media. Our goal was to have a reputation with the media such that when contacting us they are relying on, and can depend on, an authoritative, honest response to their queries. By being responsible, we earn trust and respect.

The 'team' element is basic and important. The old adage that we are only as strong as our weakest link still rings true in modern associations today. The CSA has a great call centre staff that was very new in the spring, yet was ready and able to meet the extra demands when the INS issue surfaced. All three of our customer service representatives ­ Laraine, Beata and Jennifer ­ are outstanding employees. They handled the INS issue well, updating CSA members who called in on a daily basis. Talk about learning on the job!

Fortunately, last fall, key members of the executive entered into discussions with the Canadian Consulate in Florida. We were invited to Miami and provided with a very valuable opportunity to meet with members of Florida's business community and local government. Area businesses were most concerned about the impact on their economy if snowbirds did not come south due to fears over September 11. Our message was simple -- we assured them that snowbirds were going to continue to live their lifestyle and would be coming south for the winter. Like other good news, this information was quickly disseminated to the various related states, media outlets and businesses. Who would have thought that the CSA would need the support of these initial contacts for a major issue six months later? The 'good will' established in those initial meetings offered the CSA a base from which to work; some strategic alliances were already set up.

With the help of these American contacts, we were able to expand our alliances to ensure that Canadian snowbirds had representation regarding the INS issue in every American snowbird destination and the en route states. These contacts pushed this issue onto various business and political agendas across the United States. An interesting outcome was that the CSA was able to obtain many sought-after statistics from the U.S. on numbers visiting their states and the money spent.

CSA has now established working relationships and partnerships in the United States with various governors, congressional and senatorial offices, with state tourism and economic development offices and state chambers of commerce/boards of trade, to name a few. In April and May, these various partners reached out to their counterparts and members to both alert and educate them regarding the content of the INS proposed regulatory change. Staff members such as Dr. Pamella Dana of Florida Governor Jeb Bush's office took our issue very seriously and made sure that it was 'front and centre' on Governor Bush's agenda.

Now that we have established these relationships, the CSA has a base in future from which to work, knowledge of who to talk to and identifiable friends in the southern U.S. We really hope that we will not have to do this again, but it is nice to know that we have friends and supporters who care.

During this entire process, we were well supported and informed by the Canadian federal government. Members of our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT) guided us through the maze of red tape to the persons who could give us direction and final answers on the issues at hand. DFAIT staff directed us and provided sound advice as to how to proceed and were very helpful in providing answers to our CSA members' questions. We owe a debt of thanks to Tony Knill, Jan Lawson, Gar Pardy, Chris Gregory, Robert Sinclair and Tristan Landry ­ little did they know that by helping now, their names would be forever etched on our computers for assistance in the future.